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Saxis Marsh 

oTia Conservation 

^uSt) ^^ 

Bob Duncan 

t is with great enthusiasm 

that I share with you sever- 
al bits of good news about 
the future of this agency. 
During the 2009 legislative 
session, the General Assem- 
bly endorsed a request to 
move our headquarters to a 
new location — a move that will save 
millions of dollars over time. New of- 
fice space will be built along the 1-95 
corridor, in the midst of the 'sports- 
man's triangle' near Green Top, Gan- 
der Mountain, and Bass Pro, just south 
of Ashland in central Hanover County. 
We believe the convenience of this lo- 
cation will appeal to all of our cus- 
tomers and provide ease of access 
from the interstate. As part of our relo- 
cation, we will streamline operations 
and reduce square footage — while 
gaining a sound, healthy building that 
maximizes energy efficiencies. The 
move comes after much deliberation, 
and we appreciate the support of Sec- 
retary of Natural Resources L. Preston 
Bryant, Jr., legislators, longtime cus- 
tomers, and friends. 

Looking ahead, managing talent, 
and engaging in succession planning 
are integral to sound business prac- 
tices, of course. Accordingly, I am com- 
mitted to creating career opportunities 
for our staff and am thrilled to report 
that a leadership development pro- 
gram has been put into place. Our first 
class of 40 employees has begun this 
journey. Those who answered the 

leadership call come from 
every discipline of our work 
and every region of the 
state. These employees are 
preparing themselves for 
future leadership roles 
while continuing their cur- 
rent assignments. They will 
be attending board meetings and 
working closely with division directors 
over the coming year, building a strong 
foundation through cross-training and 
refining their leadership skills. I thank 
them for their willingness to serve! 

Finally, I'd like to formally an- 
nounce the creation of the "Bureau of 
Wildlife Resources," which brings 
under one umbrella the three divisions 
of wildlife, wildlife diversity, and fish- 
eries. And with grateful appreciation, 
I'd like to thank David Whitehurst for 
stepping into his new role as bureau 
chief. As many of you know, David has 
served as head of the fisheries division 
and the wildlife diversity division, and 
held other key leadership positions 
during his tenure with the department. 
This structural change embraces a ho- 
listic approach to the management of 
wildlife resources. It is an approach 
that maximizes the application of 
human and capital assets — and the 
synergies that exist among divisions — 
to the work at hand. 

It is my hope that you will endorse 
these changes, too, and recognize in 
them our commitment to a vibrant, 
healthy future for Virginia's wildlife. 

Mission Statement 

To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to mainuiin optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth; 
To provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the 
rights of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game a.s provided for in the Constitution of Virginia; To promote safely for persons and prop- 
erty in connection with boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of 
and appreciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitiits, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities. 

Dedicated to the Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and Natural Resources 

Commonwealth of Virginia 
Timothy M. Kaine, Governor 



Subsidized this publication 

Secretary of Natural Resources 
L. Preston Bryant, Jr. 

Department of Game and 
Inland Fisheries 

Bob Duncan 
Executive Director 

Members of the Board 

Ward Burton, Halifax 
Sherry Smith Crumley Buchanan 
William T. Greer, Jr., Norfolk 
James W. Hazel, Oakton 
C. T. Hill Midlothian 
Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria 
John W. Montgomery Jr., Sandston 
Mary Louisa Pollard, Irvington 
Richard E. Railey, Courtland 
Thomas A. Stroup, Fairfax 
Charles S. Yates, Cleveland 

Magazine Staff 

Sally Mills, Editor 

Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Julia Dixon, 

Contributing Editors 

Emily Pels, Art Director 

Carol Kushlak, Production Manager 

Color separations and printing by 
Progress Printing, Lynchburg, VA. 

Virginia Wilcilife (ISSN 0042 6792) is published month- 
ly by tlie Virginia Department of Came and Inland 
Fisheries. Send all subscription orders and address 
changes to Virginia Wildlife, P. O. Box 7477, Red Oak^ 
Iowa 51591-0477. Address all other communications 
concerning this publication to Virginia Wildlife, P. O. 
Box 11104, 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, 
Virginia 23230-1104. SubscripHon rates are $12.95 fo^ 
one year, $23.95 for two years; $4.00 per each bacK 
issue, subject to availability. CHit-of-country rate iS 
$24.95 for one year and must be paid in U.S. fundsj 
No refunds for amounts less than $5.00. To sub^ 
scribe, call toll-free (800) 710-9369. Postmaster^ 
Please send all address changes to Virginia Wildlife) 
PC. Box 7477, Red Oak, Iowa 51591-0477. Postage fo^ 
periodicals paid at Richmond, Virginia and addition-i 
al entry offices. 

Copyright 2009 by the Virginia Department of Game, 
and Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved. 

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall 
afford to all persons an equal access to Department 
programs and facilities without regard to race, color, 
religion, national origin, disability, sex, or age. If you 
believe that you have been discriminated against in 
any program, activity or facility, please write to: 
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 
ATTN: Compliance Officer, (4010 West Broad Street.) 
PC. Box 11104, Richmond, Virginia 23230-1104. 

"This publication is intended for general information- 
al purposes only and every effort has been made to 
ensure its accuracy. The information contained herein 
does not serve as a legal representation of fish and 
wildlife laws or regulations. The Virginia Department 
of Game and Inland Fisheries does not assume 
responsibility for any change in dates, regulations, or 
information that may occur after publication." 




Mixed Sources 


About the cover: 

Wolf Creek IS 
one of many 
waters near the 
Clinch Moun- 
tain WM A and 
the Channels, a 
newly designated 
state forest. 
Visitors will 
enjoy an amazing 
rock formation, 
wildflowers, and 
abundant wild- 
life. See related story on page 22. 
©Dwight Dyke 




For subscriptions, 

circulation problems 

and address changes 



12 issues for $12.95 
24 issues for $23-95 
36 issues for $29.95 

4Smallmouth Heaven 
by King Montgomery 
Enjoy tips from expert anglers working the 
New River above Claytor Lake. 

8Saxis Marsh: A Place of 
Uncommon Bounty 

by Emily M. Grey 
Tliis salt marsh offers an escape to outdoors- 
men during most any time of the year. 

10 Quincy Lands at Raptor Center 

Iw byMarikaByrd 
Maymont's raptor center makes for a fiiie 
summer field trip with the kids. 

^M Northern Virginia's 
n "Other" Fishery 

by Marc N. McGlade 
Tlie Occoquan Reservoir serves up more than 
a tew record catches. 

Ifi Up Close with the Nation's 
■O Symbol 

by Glenda C. Booth 
Stealth maneuvers and quick reflexes are 
essential job skills for those who track eagles. 

OO Rock Solid Conservation 
MmMi by D.J. Mathews 
Southwest Virginia cheers a new state forest 
near the Russell- Washington county border. 

OR Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild! 
"iW by Spike Knuth 
Vireos of Virginia 

30 Journal 

33 Dining In 

34 On The Water 
Photo Tips 

Fly-fishing the 


New River 

by King Montgomery 

By some accounts the New 
River is the second oldest river 
on Earth after the Nile, but 1 
can't find definitive evidence to sup- 
port the contention. The evidence 1 do 
have is that the river is pretty wild, 
has great outdoors opportunities, and 
hosts one of the best smallmouth fish- 
eries I know. State records caught in 
the New are: smallmouth bass (8 lb., 1 
oz.), muskellunge (45 lb., 8 oz.), yel- 
low perch (2 lb., 7 oz.), and a 3 lb., 10 
oz. spotted bass from Claytor Lake. 

And DGIF fisheries biologists report 
the smallmouth bass catching 
prospects for the New in 2009 are 
very good. 

The New River begins its north- 
ward journey just below the Virginia- 
North Carolina border. Formed by 
the confluence of the North and 
South Forks of the New River in Ashe 
County, NC, it meanders several 
miles until it crosses into the Old Do- 
minion's Grayson County near 
Mouth of Wilson. About 160 of the 
river's 320 miles flow through south- 
west Virginia. 

After entering West Virginia, the 
New joins up with the Gauley River 
to form the Kanawha River, a tribu- 
tary of the Ohio River which, in turn, 
is a tributary of the Mississippi. The 
New River's native smallmouth bass 
populations are thought to have mi- 
grated originally from the Ohio River 

system and were not stocked, as in 
other Virginia rivers. 

Fishing with a Legend 

If fly-fishing throughout the world 
has a face, it is that of Bernard Victor 
"Lefty" Kreh, and I'm proud to call 
him friend, fishing partner, and men- 
tor. Lefty loves to fish for smallmouth 
bass and trout in the commonwealth, 
and we've fished together in the 
South Fork of the Shenandoah and at 
Mossy Creek. In 2008, we fished the 
upper New River with guide Mike 
Smith, professor of English at Blue- 
field State College, author of Fishing 
the New River: An Angler's Guide, and 
owner of Greasy Creek Outfitters in 

Lefty's favorite freshwater fish to 
catch is the smallmouth bass. After 
his European service with the 
Army's field artillery in World War II, 


©King Montgomery 

The New River above Claytor Lake offers easy access and the runs, riffles, and rock ledges all hold fish. 

Claytor Lake 

Lefty guided for smallmouth on the 
upper Potomac River near his home 
in Frederick, Maryland. The famous 
outdoor writer Joe Brooks, who at 
one time lived in RiclTmond, hired 
Lefty and showed him how to use a 
fly rod. He then became Lefty's men- 
tor in fly-fishing and in outdoor writ- 
ing, two areas in which Lefty has ex- 
celled for the past 60 years. 

A Scenic River 

Virginia's part of the New above 
Claytor Lake is scenic and loaded 
with smallies, various sunfishes, 
several catfishes, and stocked 
walleyes and muskellunge. It is 
clean water, with no major industrial 
or urban pollution and little devel- 
opment along its course from the 
North Carolina border to Claytor 
Lake. Bounded by farmland in 

the river 
faces runoff 
from fertilizers, insec- 
ticides, and manure, and 
its banks are subject to 
erosion caused by unre- 
strained cattle. 

The upper stretch of the river 
flows mostly through sparsely pop- 
ulated land, allowing plenty of 
movement for wildlife. Eagle, os- 
prey, and blue heron are common, 
and hundreds of other birds visit or 
live in the watershed. Deer, wild 
turkey, and black bear call the New 
River valley home. Waterfowl, in 
season, including the ubiquitous 
Canada goose, frequent the New, 
feasting on plants in adjacent fields 
and on vegetation in the water. And 
the smallmouth bass thrive. 

©Dwight Dyk 


©King Montgomery 

Guide Mike Smith, left, and Lefty Kreh admire a young smallmouth bass (also, above) before releasing it. 

Lefty Leaders 

Let's take an 8-weight and rig it for large- 
or smallmouth bass, striped bass, bone- 
fish, and many others. The leader should 
be tied from the same brand and model of 
monofilament or fluorocarbon (for sub- 
surface flies) such as used on spinning 
reels. Lefty believes this gives uniformity 
to the leader in stiffness and other char- 
acteristics that enhance its effectiveness. 
I favor Berkeley Trilene Big Game 50 yard 
mono leader skeins and Berkeley's Vanish 
Fluorocarbon also on leader wheels. 

For a 9-foot tapered leader, use 4V2 
feet of 50-lb. test line, then 1 foot each of 
40, 30, and 20 lb. test, the last tied with a 
terminal loop such as a peri^ection loop or 
surgeon's loop. Use blood knots or sur- 
geon's knots to connect the main pieces. 
Then loop on an 18-inch piece of tippet 
material and you're good to go. Any of 
these sections can be off by several inches 
so don't worry about exactness. The fish 
don't carry tape measures, and casting 
and turnover won't be adversely affected 
by a little sloppiness. For longer or shorter 
leaders, adjust the math accordingly. 

Virginio's port ofthe New above Cloytor 
Loke is scenic Olid looded with simllies, 
stocked wolleyes Olid iimskelhmge. 

Bass Habitat 

After our first few days on the New 
River, Lefty Kreh said if he had to 
give a class on what prime small- 
mouth bass living quarters look like, 
he'd use photos of the New River in 
his presentation. The New has it all: 
cool, oxygenated water; varying 
depths with breaklines and dropoffs; 
shoreline rocks and tree blowdowns; 
vegetation; and rock ledges that 
stitch the river up and down and 
across. These features add up to su- 
perb bass habitat. 

The portion of the river above 
Claytor Lake fishes well from spring 
through fall for smallmouth bass, 
and it is a wonderful stream to fish 
with top-water flies. The bronze- 

backs can hang deep under the rock 
ledges, but the relatively clear water, 
coupled with the smallie's excelling 
sight and hearing, allows it to detect 
top-water poppers and streak several 
feet to the top to smash them! And 
this sometimes happens all day long. 

Tackle, Tactics, and 

Lefty and I both use Temple Fork 
Outfitters 9-foot rods, which he helps 
design, for casting 8- or 9-weight 
floating lines for most of our bass 
fishing on the New River. You can use 
store-bought knotless, tapered lead- 
ers, but we like hand-tied 9- to 11-foot 
monofilament leaders tapered down 
to a 12- or 15-pound test tippet. (See 
sidebar on how to tie Lefty leaders.) 
Flies vary, but white poppers worked 
best, even at midday, particularly in 
late summer. Floater-divers, such as 
the Clouser floating minnow, and the 
ever-effective Clouser deep minnow 
in green /white, brown /white, and 
chartreuse / white also work well. If 
all else fails, go to a heavy bottom 

Weil-known outdoor writer C. Boyd Pfeiffer erijoys fishing the New River. 



Smallmouth bass fly selection should include floaters, shallow divers, and deeper, 
bottom offerings. Below: Greasy Creek Outfitters owner/guide Mike Smith displays a 
beautiful smallmouth bass. 

bouncing crayfish pattern in green or 

I caught a citation 20-inch smallmouth 
bass while dead-drifting a white popper 
with some red on it, around noon along a 
mid-river current seam. The fish fought 
hard in tlie fast water, but soon came to 
net. After a few photos it was released 
back to its home, u 

Kifjg Montgomery is a long-time contributor to Vir- 
ginia Wildlife. He lives in Burke, is a retired Army of- 
ficer, and has a degree in fisheries biology. He can he 
contacted at 

New River Information 

for river information, fishing regula- 
tions, and to purchase a fisliing 

• Info on VirgiiTia State Parks is at / state_parks / . 

• Greasy Creek Outfitters, wivw.greasy, 540-250-1340. 
Mike Smith also guities trout anglers 
on nearby private waters and books 
trips to tlie Bahamas. See www.grand 

• Fishin<^ the Neiv River Vallei/: An An- 
gler's Guidehy M. W. Smith (2002), 
University Press of Virginia, www.up Concise instructions 
of where to go and launch and what to 
do to catch fish. Lists gviides, accom- 
modations, and more. 

• The New River Guide (2nd ed. ) by Bruce 
Ingram (2008), Ecopress, www.finney Covers the entire New River 
and non-fishing recreation as well. 
Lists float trips with access points. 

JULY 2009 

©Emily Grey 


by Emily M. Grey 

W o the untrained eye, 
^ Saxis Marsh may look 
S^^ like an endless stretch of 

'no man's land'. To the outdoorsman 
or woman, serpentine guts ribboned 
with golden acres of spartina, sandy 
berms, and scattered pine hum- 
mocks create a giant playground. De- 
pending on the season, tide, and loca- 
tion one can hunt, fish, and trap or 
paddle surrounding waters through 
the evolving Saxis Water Trail Loop. 

Nestled in upper Accomack 
County on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 
Saxis Wildlife Management Area 
(Saxis Marsh) remains one of the bay- 
side's pristine tidal marshlands. 
Owned and managed by the Depart- 
ment, it is designated part of Delmar- 
va Bayside Marsh IBA, an Audubon 
important bird area. 


One can watch a diversity of 
wildlife along this coastal portion of 
the Virginia Birding and Wildlife 
Trail, Site CES16. Songbirds, shore- 
birds, grebes, loons, and birds of prey, 
such as rough-legged hawks and 
short-eared owls, join migrating wa- 
terfowl here. 

"Saxis probably offers the best 
black duck hunting in the wildlife 
management area system, as well as 
good hunting for a variety of other 
wildfowl species," said Phil West, 
manager of DGIF public lands. "The 
salt marshes are a great place for 
hunters and wildlife watchers to es- 
cape civilization and enjoy wildlife in 
a unique setting." 

The property is divided into two 
peninsular tracts — Freeschool and 
Michael (or, McKiel) Marsh. It is bor- 
dered by the brackish waters of 
Beasley Bay, Pocomoke Sound, and 
Messongo Creek and several, smaller 
freshwater creeks. 


With no trails or boardwalks, ac- 
cess is limited and challenging. It is 
wise to pack insect repellant, boots, 
and drinking water. Paddlers unfa- 
miliar with the waters may consider 
hiring an outfitter, as tides and cur- 
rents can be tricky and perilous. 


Freeschool Marsh was originally 
owned by Samuel Sanford. Probated 
in 1712, his will provided that rents 
and profits from this land be used to 
educate poor children in upper Acco- 
mack County. 

In 1873, proceeds from the sale of 
this real estate were used to build a 
little schoolhouse on nearby Saxis vil- 
lage (then called Sykes or Sikes Is- 
land). After the public school system 
was formed, the schoolhouse became 
part of the Saxis Volunteer Fire Com- 
pany building. 

In 1925, a causeway was built con- 
necting Saxis Island to the marsh. 



A PI ace of 
Uncommon Bounty 

More primitive roads linked the 
mainland to Saxis through the 1800s. 

In 1957, the DGIF purchased 
Freeschool and Michael Marsh with 
Pittman-Robinson funds. The com- 
bined 5,574 acres became known as 
Saxis Wildlife Management Area. 
Michael Marsh was last co-owned by 
the Learning, Robertson, and Klee- 
mann families. Public hunting is not 
allowed on this tract. 

Finney Ewell sold Freeschool 
Marsh to the Department. Public 
hunting is permitted here on certain 
days of the season. 

"My grandpa caught 1,000 
muskrats one day at Lighter Heart 
Pond in Freeschool Marsh," recalled 
Danny Marshall, former DGIF game 
warden and Finney Ewell's grand- 
son. "In winter, their lodges looked 
like snowballs stacked in the marsh." 

For many years this tract, known 
as Ewells Marsh, was a muskrat 
ranch. Local people gathered three- 

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A muskrat skull reminds passersby of the wildlife present in the marsh system. 
Above: Grayson Chesser appreciates the rich history of Saxis Marsh. 

JULY 2009 

Barn owls are among the many bird species that breed in Saxis Marsh. 

species of ^peciAl Qpncevn 

"Saxis Marsh provides a Large area of 
high quality habitat for a number of 
wildlife species throughout the year," 
said Dr. Gary Costanzo, manager of the 
DGIF migratory game bird program. "Wa- 
terfowl, including the American black 
duck and shorebirds such as the willet 
breed, raise their young, and winter 

"Ducks can find shelter in many tidal 
creeks and can feed on the seeds of 
marsh vegetation and abundant inverte- 
brates such as snails and crabs," he con- 
tinued. "The marsh also serves as a nurs- 
ery for a number of saltwater fish species 
and provides habitat for shellfish." 

Despite the biodiversity at Saxis 
WMA, DGIF is observing "species of spe- 
cial concern." These are faunal species 
classified as federally or state endan- 
gered or threatened, or in the Depart- 
ment's special concern status category. 

Primary threats to bird populations 
include loss of habitat due to sea level 
rise and raccoon and gray and red fox 
predation. Invasions of common reed 

and black needlerush are impeding sur- 
vival of Henslow's sparrow, once a preva- 
lent nester, and black rails, sedge wrens, 
and seaside sparrows. 

Saxis Marsh is home to Virginia's 
largest population of saltmarsh sharp- 
tailed sparrows. American oystercatchers, 
Forster's terns, and barn owls are other 
significant breeders. Peregrine falcons, 
chuck-wills widows, bald eagles, prairie 
warblers, and eastern meadowlarks are 
other birds of special concern here. 

Someday, northeastern beach tiger 
beetle larvae, which inhabit vertical bur- 
rows along the intertidal zone, may be 
obliterated by rising sea levels. 

Northern diamondback terrapins, Vir- 
ginia northern flying squirrels, and east- 
ern hog-nosed snakes are other non-avian 
species of immediate conservation need. 

Virginia's Wildlife Action Plan allows 
DGIF staff to manage wildlife and habitats 
across six state eco-regions. Through 
careful monitoring, hope remains alive for 
those of special concern. Go to 

"The salt marshes are a great place for 
hunters and wildlife watchers to escape 
civilization and enjoy wildlife in a 
unique setting. " 

square grass seed for sale to off-shore 
buyers. Windmills pumped water 
into ponds during dry spells. 

Lifelong resident of the area 
Granville D. Ross was DGlF's game 
manager during the 1957 Saxis 
Marsh purchases. Banding water- 
fowl, trapping, and keeping bound- 
aries separated were part of his job. 

"I was dedicated to the protection 
of Saxis Marsh," said Ross, also a for- 
mer U.S. Deputy for the Fish and 
Wildlife Service and part-time DGIF 
game warden. "1 spent many a night 
with a box of crackers, a Coca Cola, 
and a can of beans watching for 
poachers. Residents' backyards were 
marshes. Some took what they could 
while they could. 

"I got a kick out of watching Cana- 
da geese in the fields," he continued. 



The guts of a marsh provide needed 
shelter to a host of waterfowl, fish, and 
mammal species. 

Mud Larking 

Last November, former DGIF game 
warden Grayson Chesser and I 
cruised by skiff through Jack's Gut 
and other inlets of Saxis Marsh. This 
renowned decoy carver operates 
Holden Creek Gun Club on histori- 
cal, family property at nearby Jenk- 
ins Bridge. 

On this unseasonably warm, 
sunny afternoon, surf scoters, green- 
winged teal, and black ducks winged 
over Drum Bay. At Freeschool 
Marsh, we startled a flock of seaside 
sparrows and discovered a muskrat 
skull lying on the beach. 

Mink, opossum, cottontail rab- 
bits, river otter, and white-tailed deer 
also inhabit this terrain. Rockfish, 
flounder, and a variety of trout, 
drum, and other fish give sport to an- 
glers in open waters. 

A peregrine falcon nesting plat- 
form still looms over saltwater bush- 

^flxis W^cA 

Directions to Saxis 
Wildlife Management Area: 

From U.S. Highway 13 at Temperanceville, 
take Route 695 west on Saxis Road for 
approximately 10 miles. 

J^ictcU ^uck ^tudff 

In Saxis Marsh and other traditional winter- 
ing areas, American black duck populations 
have declined by as much as 60 percent. To 
pinpoint the causes. Ducks Unlimited and 
its partners, including DGIF, initiated a 
multi-year study in several East Coast states. 

Capturing and fitting female black ducks 
with GPS transmitters (shown here) allows 
researchers to track the birds as they move 
from wintering to staging to breeding 
grounds. Landscape analysis using satellite 
imagery and GIS helps researchers deter- 
mine whether there is adequate habitat to 
support black duck wintering populations. 
Important black duck food samples, such as 
invertebrates and aquatic vegetation, are 
also examined. 

"We're trying to estimate the availability 
of foods consumed by black ducks on the 
Eastern Shore," explained Ben Lewis, gradu- 
ate candidate Illinois State University work- 
ing with DU. "Preliminary results show 
there's much less food available in impor- 
tant black duck habitat." 

"With wateri'ront development, it's espe- 
cially important to leave marshes and 
wildlife refuges that can serve as natural 
buffers and provide habitat," he added. 

JULY 2009 


es. We spotted Michael Marsh to the 
south and the remains of the Drum 
Bay Hunt Club hut at Tunnels Island. 
A mile to the north lies Maryland's 

"Every piece of Saxis Marsh is 
beautiful," Grayson opined. "I don't 
know how long it will last. It's going 
away fast. A lot of little tumps and is- 
lands have already washed away. 
There's little marsh left between the 
causeway and the sound." 

Barely three feet above sea level, 
Saxis Marsh's hummocks are shrines 
to dead cedars and loblolly pines lost 
to storms and flooding. Climate 
change is a minimally addressed, 
local issue. Like a silent killer, steadily 
rising sea levels continually diminish 
the bayside landscape. 

The clean, briny air, vast land- 
scape, and stark natural features 
made the trek worthwhile. A rare 
glimpse at Nelson's sharp-tailed 
sparrows in winter, flycatchers in 
warm seasons, and other sensitive 
and familiar species are nature's gifts. 

We docked at the village of Saxis, 
human population just over 300. 
Crabhouses and slips with work- 
boats and pleasure craft decked the 
shoreline. Saxis, Messongo Creek, 
and Marsh Market offer free public 
boat ramps. 

"Of all the water towns on the 
Eastern Shore, Saxis is close to what it 
was in the beginning," Chesser said. 

By the quayside and fishing pier 
in winter, one may see northern can- 
vasback, common eider, and redhead 
ducks mingled with mergansers, 
goldeneye, and resident mallards. 

Perhaps the growing focus on 
Saxis Marsh with its varied outdoor 
recreation and watchable wildlife 
may be just the antidote that rejuve- 
nates the tiny fishing hamlet of 
Saxis. D 

Emily M. Grey is a writer, photograpiier, natu- 
ralist, and attorney from Virginia's Eastern 
Shore. Her passions are nature, traveling, and 
interacting with varied cultures. 

^ For More Information 

"^ Virginia Department of Game and 

I Inland Fisheries, (804) 829-6580 




// ' x^ 

J M 


>- /^/-- 




Quincy became the first bald 
eagle to enter the Robert M. 
Freeman Bald Eagle Habitat 
and Raptor Valley, located at May- 
mont, in Richmond. The eagle was 
nursed back to health following par- 
tial amputation of one wing at the 
Wildlife Center in Waynesboro, after 
being found near death at a landfill in 
King and Queen County. The bird is 
named for President John Quincy 
Adams, whose father. President John 
Adams, was critical to making the 
bald eagle our national symbol. 

Maymont's Eagle Habitat 
and Raptor Valley 

The natural environment is enclosed 
with open wire fencing to protect the 
birds from other prey — both human 
and animal. Signs along the handi- 
capped-accessible trail provide infor- 
mation about the bald eagle and 

JULY 2009 

other birds like the Cooper's hawk, 
barred owl, American kestrel, and 
black vulture. 

The new Wachovia Amphitheater 
seats 60 and provides a venue for on- 
going educational programs about 
Virginia's wildlife and their environ- 
ment, including birds of prey. 

These are 'non-relocatable' birds 
that need protection to live comfort- 
ably with dignity and respect. May- 
mont does not accept injured ani- 
mals, as it is not a treatment facility, 
according to Henry Buz Bireline, di- 
rector of habitats and nature center at 

Bireline adds that the U. S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service and the Depart- 
ment (DGIF) have cooperated with 
permits required for these animals to 
become residents — as is the case for 
any endangered species on the feder- 
al or state list. 

At the dedication last September, 
DGIF's David Whitehurst said, "This 
beautiful new facility is an outstand- 
ing tribute to Robert M. Freeman. It's 
a perfect expression of his affection 
for the nation's symbol — the bald 
eagle — and for nature. It is also an 
outstanding manifestation of Mr. 
Freeman's desire to share his deep 
and enduring appreciation for eagles 
and wildlife with others. His family 
has chosen a wonderful venue in 
Maymont to accomplish Mr. Free- 
man's goal." 

Ed Clark, president of the Wildlife 
Center, added, "Many people have 
heard the phrase, 'People protect 
what they love, love what they un- 
derstand, and understand what they 
are taught', but nowhere is that more 
relevant than in wildlife conserva- 
tion. Creatures that were once killed 

Lee Walker 

on sight as pests and vermin are now 
revered and protected as a result of a 
fundamental change in society's atti- 
tiide toward raptors and other pred- 
ators, a change brought about 
through education. This new exliibit 
will extend and reinforce the public's 
understanding and love of birds of 
prey, and will ultimately lead to a 
greater appreciation of these won- 
derful creatures." 

Have you been to the exhibit yet? 
Try going afield to see all of these 
birds in one day: It will not happen! 
You'll want to retvirn to this magnifi- 
cent facility where animals are man- 
aged in perpetuity for our education 
and enjoyment. Visit: www.may D 

Marikn Bi/rd of Glen Allen is a freelance 
ivriter/pliotographer and member of the Vir- 
ginia Outdoor Writers Association. 

Wildlife Center president Ed Clark 
prepares to release Quincy into the new 
raptor center. 

©Marc McGlade 


"Other" Fishery 

by Marc N. McGlade 

Northern Virginia's Occoquan Reservoir lies 
in the shadow of the Potomac River- 
hut it shouldn't. 

y white spinner bait landed 
alongside the blowdown 
on the craggy shoreline 
with nary a splash. A crank or two of 
my bait-casting reel's handle set the 
baitfish imitator in motion. Before I 
realized what was happening, a vi- 
cious strike and street fight ensued. 

The bursting colors of towering 
trees gave reassurance that fall is in- 
deed a beautiful time of year in Vir- 
ginia. Catching a fish this strong 
helped reinforce my love of auttimn, 
as well. When it was all said and 
done, the 37.5-inch northern pike 
weighed 12.5 pounds, and reigned as 
Occoquan Reservoir's record for 


three years. Monroe Parker, the leg- 
endary ranger at Fountainhead Re- 
gional Park, informed me that it was 
the de facto lake record until three 
years later when a 16-pounder 
usurped my catch. 

While this story is not about 
northern pike, it is about Occoquan 
Reservoir. Pike are rarely stocked at 
the reservoir straddling Fairfax and 
Prince William counties, but other 
species abound, and this body of 
water is a don't-miss spot in North- 
ern Virginia for anglers of all types. 

Occoquan Reservoir is among the 
top-producing lakes in the region for 
largemouth bass and crappies, most 

Flathead catfish are plentiful at 
Occoquan, as are whitetails and 
other wildlife. 


Crappie (shown here) and largemouth 
bass are favored by anglers. 

notably in the spring. Additionally, 
this reservoir holds the current state 
record for flathead catfish. A 
whiskered beast of 66 pounds, 4 
ounces reigns supreme as the com- 
monwealth's champion flathead. 

Formed by the confluence of Bull 
Run and Occoquan River, this 2,100- 
acre reservoir is a steep-sided, deep 
body of water that can present fishing 
challenges. When crafty anglers un- 
lock the secret here, it can be a dyna- 
mite place to catch trophy-sized fish 
of a variety of species. 

While most anglers in the north- 
ern portion of the commonwealth 
pursue bass on the famed Potomac 
River, a growing cluster of them con- 

Anglers can rent boats at the reservoir 
and enjoy beautiful scenery. 

centrate their efforts on this scenic 
reservoir. Officials at the reservoir en- 
force a 10-horsepower maximum 
limitation for outboards, which is still 
a viable choice for larger boats that 
-1 have efficient trolling motors. There 
^ are plenty of productive spots to tar- 
f get close to each of the marinas. 
@ The historic town of Occoquan 
nestled at the base of the Occoquan 
Reservoir dam overlooks the Occo- 
quan River. Above the dam is a veri- 
table gold mine for anglers. 

Flatheads are omnivorous but 
feed primarily on live fish. They will 
venture into very shallow waters at 
times. They are found in large rivers 
and lakes and prefer deep, slow 
stretches near strong currents. These 
solitary specimens use riprap, brush 
piles, sunken logs, and other debris 
for cover. Seventy-two to 84-degree 
water temps represent the optimal 
spawning time for flatheads. 

"For some reason," Odenkirk 
said, "this population never 'explod- 
ed' like many other populations in 
the Southeast outside its native 
range. This population has persisted 
at a relatively low level for many 
decades." Odenkirk explained that 
when a small population exists — es- 
pecially a non-native one — a compet- 
itive advantage may occur, allowing 
those individuals to reach trophy 
proportions. This, he adds, is a simi- 
lar situation to Lake Orange's world- 
record white bass. 

"That coupled with good forage 
and productivity, probably had the 
most to do with growing that flat- 
head catfish," he said. 

Mike Willems was the angler who 
caught the trophy on May 6, 1994. 
Catches of flathead catfish weighing 
25 pounds or measuring 40 inches in 
length qualify for a trophy fish certifi- 
cate from the DGIF. 

Jusl the Fads 

According to John Odenkirk, a fish- 
eries biologist with the Department 
(DGIF), very few flathead catfish 
were stocked into Occoquan in the 
late 1960s. 

The flathead catfish (Pylodictis oli- 
varis) has nicknames such as yellow 
cat, mud cat, and shovelhead cat. 
This large species sports a broad and 
flat head. Its lower jaw protrudes be- -S 
yond the upper. Flatheads have a '^ 
slightly rounded tail and a yellowish u 
or cream-colored background, high- £ 
lighted with black, dark brown, or 
olive mottling on their backs and 

Former Fairfax resident Kurt Dove fishes 
for largemouth bass. 

JULY 2009 


There are plenty of boats available to rent at Fountainhead Regional Park and other 
nearby facilities. 

©Marc McGlade 

"The angler (Willems) brought 
that flathead to Locust Shade Park 
during a fishing dedication to have it 
checked (certified)," Odenkirk said. 
"He carried it down live in an upside 
down roof-top car carrier, and re- 
txirned it alive to the reservoir after it 
was checked and weighed." 

Anything Else to Catch? 

Other than tlatheads, there indeed 
are more species to conquer at Occo- 

"This is mostly known as one of 
the district's best largemouth bass 
waters," claimed Odenkirk. "It also 
has great crappie fishing (whites and 
blacks), and a good channel cat pop- 
ulation. It receives surplus northern 
pike from time to time, but I would 
not recommend it for that." 

Of course, whenever a body of 
water coughs up a state record, 
thoughts immediately turn to ques- 

tions if another monster could be 
lurking, regardless of the species. 

Odenkirk replied, "Yes, there 
could, but probably only for flat- 
heads and perhaps crappie or a chan- 
nel cat." 

The main draw here is not flat- 
heads. While occasional giant flatties 
do show their whiskered faces, the 
largemouth bass fishery is the real 

"When we were keeping tourna- 
ment records (for largemouth bass), 
Occoquan Reservoir had the highest 
catch rate for largemouth tourna- 
ments over any other state water," 
Odenkirk explained. "Even more 
than Anna, Smith Mountain, Buggs 
Island, etc. I have heard anglers com- 
plain that they only catch 2- to 5- 
pounders all the time." 

While Odenkirk acknowledges 
there aren't many trophy fish certifi- 
cates issued for bass (22 inches in 

Opportunities abound for pier fishing at 
Occoquan Reservoir. 

length or weighing 8 pounds or 
more) at Occoquan Reservoir, there 
are loads of fish in the 2- to 5-pound 

Worth the Trip 

Not to take anything away from tlie 
famed Potomac River, but anglers in 
the northern portion of the common- 
wealth — or visitors to the region — 
would be doing themselves a great 



Kurt Dove, a professional bass fisherman, hefts a chunky largemouth bass. 

©Marc McGlade 

disservice by not casting a line in Oc- 
coquan Reservoir. Crowds, when 
compared to other area waters, are 
significantly less. The fish are cooper- 
ative, the scenery is beautiful, and 
perhaps another state-record flat- 
head is swimming around. Maybe a 
crappie or channel cat, as well. 

I wonder if 1 head back up there 
and burn a white spinner bait along- 
side a blowdown if 1 could catch an- 
other northern pike . . . f I 

Marc N. McGlade is a writer and photographer 
from Midlothian, who i)i the past frequented Oc- 
coquan Reservoir wlmiever he got the chance 
when lie lived in Northern Virginia. 

For More Information 

• For fisheries information and reg- 
ulations regarding Occoquan 
Reservoir, contact the DGIF Re- 
gion 5 office in Fredericksburg by 
phone at (540) 899-4169. For even 

more information, visit online at 

Boat launch ramps and rental boat 
facilities include Fountainhead Re- 
gional Park, (703) 250-9124; Lake 
Ridge Park, (703) 494-5288; and 
Bull Run Marina. Currently, Bull 
Run Marina is not staffed, but 
boaters who desire to launch wa- 
tercraft at the marina may pur- 
chase a season pass and gate key 
from Fountainhead Regional Park. 

There is a 10-horsepower maxi- 
mum limitation for outboard en- 
gines at Occoquan Reservoir. 

For an updated, cjuality map, refer 
to "GMCO's Pro Scries Map of Occo- 
quan Reservoir." Contact them by 
phone at (888) 420-6277 or (540) 
286-6908, by e-mail at gmcomaps, or visit their Web 
site at ww^ 

A walkway and fishing pier provide 
convenient access to landlubbers. 

JULY 2009 


with the 

by GlendaC. Booth 

A sliver of mid-March moon 
and sparkling sky gently il- 
luminate soybean stubble in 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 
Rappahannock River Valley National 
Wildlife Refuge. It's 5:30 a.m., 36 de- 

Her truck bed loaded with three 
deer carcasses, Sandy Spencer, U.S. 
Fish & Wildlife Service biologist, joins 
DGIF coordinator for nongame bird 
projects Jeff Cooper in the Richmond 
County field. The land called the Tay- 
loe Tract abuts Cat Point Creek, a tidal 
tribvitary of the Rappahannock River. 
They quietly align the deer near the 
mid-point of a 30-by-40-foot nylon net 
furled under a camouflage of loose 
hay. The goal? To catch a bald eagle 

Cooper and Spencer then retreat to 
a dark, weathered shed 100 yards 
from the net, partly concealed by bri- 
ars and shrubs, where two volunteers 
shuffle in the chill. Dawn's avian cho- 
rus begins its crescendo. 

Everyone peeks through several 2- 
to 4-inch vertical gaps in the walls. 
Around 7 a.m.. Cooper spots three 
bald eagles fishing in the creek, 
nowhere near the bait. The group 
waits . . . and waits . . . and waits . . . 
and waits some more. In between 
chunks of homemade cornbread. 


Jeff Cooper, DGIF coordinator for 
nongame bird projects, displays the 
catch, a male bald eagle around three 
years old. Right: Cooper extracts the 
eagle from the net. 

someone jokes about the area's repu- 
tation as an eagle hotspot. In fact, it 
had 145 eagles in 2007. The gizzard 
shad and white perch are running 
and the birds are probably feeding on 
fish, speculates Cooper. More wait- 

Several vultures swoop across the 
sky, investigating aerially. A few ea- 
gles soar overhead off and on, cir- 
cling broadly 300 to 400 feet up, but 


one." Small or not, he's important. 

Cooper and Spencer slip an im- 
provised sock cap over the bird's 
head to calm him. They examine his 
plumage and Cooper explains that he 
is a third-year bird with second-year 
plumage. They bind his claws with 
ace bandages. 

With the bird's eyes covered and 
talons bound, they measure the beak, 
wing and halux (or, thumb). They 
swaddle the body, with an ace band- 
age and weigh him: eight pounds 
and four ounces. 

Cooper clamps a metal band on 
each ankle. The first is from the U. S. 
Geological Survey banding lab, 
bands that have been used for 

they drift away. It seems like an avian 
tease. Finally, around hour four, a 
bald eagle checks out the bait at 100 
feet or so above. 

At 10:55, the morning has 
warmed up and two unsuspecting 
turkey vultures suddenly land and 
begin to feed — a good sign! Wary ea- 
gles are lured to land if vultures are 
feeding, says Cooper. 

At 11:00, a mottled eagle sails 
overhead just above the tree tops and 
suddenly hits the ground 30 yards 
away from the deer, out of the net's 
range. Cooper instructs, "Be quiet. 
Don't move." 

It takes five years for a bald eagle to 
reach full maturity and acquire a white 
head and white tail. 

The eagle takes halting 'baby 
steps' for what seems like an hour to- 
ward the bait. Everyone cranes, 
stiffly, soundlessly. Under his breath. 
Cooper says that the eagle is nibbling; 
a catch could be imminent. He begins 
a whispered countdown. "Don't fire 
until I say fire," he instructs Bob 
Cralle, a first-time volunteer assigned 
to push the detonator. Slowly, slowly, 
dragging out the words. Cooper in- 
tones, "Three." Pause. "Two." Pause. 
"One." Long pause. "Fire!" Cralle 

A deafening blast cuts across the 
field and in split seconds, three rock- 
ets propel the net up, out, and down 
over the birds. "We got him," Cooper 
exults, and he yells at David White- 
hurst, who serves as the director of 
the bureau of wildlife resources for 
the DGIF and happens to be a long 
distance runner, to sprint to the cap- 
tives. The less agile follow. 

Cooper throws his coat over the 
scrunched up eagle. Carefully han- 
dling the bird's razor-sharp talons 
and menacing beak, he deftly extracts 
the bird from the net, his experience 
evident. This is one angry bird. Coop- 
er says it's a male. The eagle repeat- 
edly stretches his beak open wide, 
slashes around his long pink tongue 
and glares at his captors with fierce, 
piercing eyes. He's ready for battle. 
Cooper announces, "He's a small 

USF&WS biologist Sandy Spencer weighs 
the young eagle. 

decades. Band recovery provides 
most of what scientists know about 
birds' movements. 'Our' eagle be- 
comes number 62947696. 

Then Cooper puts on a purple 
band, identifying the eagle as "W" 
over "C," widi purple denoting that 
the catch was in the Chesapeake Bay 
area. Each East Coast state uses a dif- 
ferent color. 

After a picture-taking session, 15 
minutes have elapsed. Cooper 
loosens the binds and sends "W. C." 
to the skies. 

JULY 2009 


Looking for Answers 

why do biologists go out before 
sun-up in the cold, crouch in a dark 
shed, squint through board slits for 
hours, and scan the sky for eagles? 
"This will help us better understand 
their movement among states and 
among concentration areas in Vir- 
ginia and Maryland. It will help us lo- 
cate high priority habitat and protect 
these areas, which in turn helps en- 
sure the eagles' survival," answers 

The Chesapeake Bay, a rich fish- 
ery, is an area of convergence for mi- 
grating bald eagles and has the sec- 
ond largest breeding population on 
the East Coast. The Rappahannock, 
James, Potomac, York, Nanticoke, 
and Pocomoke rivers are home to 
large concentrations. 

The Chesapeake region hosts 
three distinct populations: resident 
eagles that move around but primari- 
ly stay in the bay area, 'northern' ea- 
gles that use the bay in the winter and 
'southern' eagles that use the estuary 
in the summer. "These birds are hard- 
wired to use the bay as an important 
component of their life cycle," stress- 
es Cooper. 

Cooper wants to learn more about 
communal roosts. "A roost site is 
more important than a single nest site 
because it is used by multiple birds, 
migrants, and immature birds," he 
emphasizes. Biologists think that ea- 
gles may "exchange information" 
and that the young learn from older 
birds on the roosts. 

Above: Cooper measures the eagle's wingspan, as Spencer assists. DGIF's David 
Whitehurst records the data. Below left: Cooper measures the talon. 

More Information: 

Bald eagle facts — 

The Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge — 

History of recovery — 

Virginia's Breeding Population and Productivity — 

Virginia's Protection Guidelines — 

Federal Management Guidelines — 

DGIF Eagle cam: 

if you see a beinded eagle — 

Report any banded eagle you see (and ideally, the number) to the 
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 804-367-1693. 



Releasing a banded eagle safely back to 
its natural environs is the ultimate goal. 

"We don't know where many 
roosts are, but if we did, it would en- 
able us to assess the quality of the site, 
the extent of use, and then work witli 
landowners to preserve the site," 
Spencer says. "Roost sites and forage 
areas are as important as nests in the 
bald eagle's life cycle, but because 
they may not be as obvious to the ca- 
sual observer, they may inadvertent- 
ly be impacted by incompatible land 

Why does DGIF do this work? 
"What happens in Virginia, Mary- 
land and the Chesapeake Bay has im- 
plications for populations up and 
down the East Coast. We have a lot of 
responsibility not only for our breed- 
ing population, but for migrant ea- 
gles that depend on the bay's concen- 
tration areas for part of their life 
cycle," maintains Cooper. 

"We need to know what areas are 
of highest importance to ensure that 
high quality habitat is not lost. Track- 
ing and monitoring eagles is the only 
way to identify where high priority 
areas are located. That is one of the 
most important bits of information 
we could glean if we used transmit- 
ters," he emphasizes. 


Habitat loss is the major threat to bald 
eagles today. Cooper explained in a 
later interview. Shoreline habitat is di- 
minishing, especially on the Po- 
tomac, James, and Rappahannock 
rivers. "Once it's developed, it's out 
of production forever," Cooper 

Eagle expert Brian Watts con- 
curred: "Urban sprawl and shoreline 
development have replaced DDT as 
the greatest threat," said Watts, who 
directs William and Mary College's 
Center for Conservation Biology. 
"With more than 75 percent of pairs 
on private land, the future will rest 
with private landowners," he added. 

Cooper works with hundreds of 
landowners and usually, they find 
ways to protect eagles and still use 
private property. "In most instances, 
development is not stopped," he said. 

Federal wildlife managers like 
those at the Rappahannock refuge are 
permanently protecting bald eagle 
habitat along several Virginia water- 
ways. "Bald eagles are an important 
focus of our management on three 
refuges on the James and Rappalian- 
nock rivers," said Joe McCauley, Rap- 
pahannock refuge manager. "It's the 
most important function we serve. 
Just because eagles were removed 
from the list of federally-threatened 
species, there's still work to be done. 
Now that they are completely re- 
moved does not mean we can relax. 
FWS will still maintain it as a focal 
species," he stressed. 

Toxic lead is another worry. Coop- 
er gets several reports a year of lead 
toxicosis in bald eagles. "Lead poi- 
soning in eagles is surprisingly com- 
mon," according to Jonathan Slee- 
man, DGIF's wildlife veterinarian. 
While sources are unconfirmed, Slee- 
man suspects eagles come across it in 
fishing sinkers and lead shot. Steel 

and many alternatives are now avail- 
able to anglers and hunters. 

Starting in the winter, DGIF and 
Virginia Tech will take blood samples, 
measure lead levels, try to correlate the 
findings with the food eagles eat, and 
analyze body growth. 

Finally, there's global warming. 
Cooper speculates that with warmer 
winters up north and more open water 
there, fewer eagles may be coming 
south, but this has not been docviment- 
ed. Warming can also affect tlie remge 
and distribution of prey species and 
change salinity levels in rivers. 

"Risiiig temperatures and sea level 
in the state will likely change the 
makeup of entire ecosystems, forciiig 
wildlife to shift their ranges or adapt," 
says the National Wildlife Foundation. 
Global warming is linked to many 
birds moving their traditional ranges. 
The bald eagle's range is moving in- 
land, according to a February National 
Audubon Society report. "Now they 
are wintering inland as far north as the 
ice will let them and they now winter 
all across the 48 states and southern 
Canada. We found wintering bald ea- 
gles increasing in all 48 contiguous 
states," reported Greg Butcher, 
Audubon's director of bird conserva- 


Cooper is in his second year of rocket 
netting eagles. In 2008, he caught tliree; 
in 2009, 11. He has his fingers crossed 
for satellite telemetry equipment, 
which costs around $2,500 per bird, 
plus $200 per month or so to track a 

Jeff Cooper devotes hours — at all 
hours — in light or dark, to crawl 
around farm fields and hide out in old 
sheds to save bald eagles. What's next? 
He hopes to catch 40 to 50 bald eagles a 
year in multiple locations over the next 
five winters to expand our knowledge 
of this majestic bird, symbol of the 
strength of the nation. 

"It's just a matter of having the 
time. It's not too hard to catch them," 
he chuckled. D 

Glcnda C. Booth, a freelance writer and legislative 
consultant, grezo up in Southwest Virginia and 
has lived in Northern Virginia 37 years, where she 
is active in conservation efforts. 

JULY 2009 


Old firetower 

BS?%.. -^ >a 


*p^-r ""^ ^^ 


**" si:- '*'' "^^^ S 

Carolina saxifrage 


Local Community 

Perseveres to Save 

the Channels 

by D.J.Mathews 

^K AT hen my sons were young, 
m^' we sometimes ventured up 
WW a steep trail, a trail leading to 
an old firetower and rocky overlooks. 
You could see the sharp line of the sce- 
nic Clinch Mountain chain on this 
border between Washington and Rus- 
sell counties in southwest Virginia, 
close to the Hayter's Gap community. 
My husband even brought a boy 
scout troop up there to camp, the 
night clear enough for a dazzling 
show of shooting stars. 

Recently, I went up that trail again. 
This time it was with hiking compan- 
ions Tom Hunter, a longtime birder, 
and Bill Dingus, southwest steward 
for the state's Natural Heritage Divi- 
sion. Our trail was ablaze with the 
tiny white flowers of garlic mustard, 
an alien species Dingus said was far 
too pervasive to try to eradicate. 
Hunter, who'd brought a riny CD de- 
vice complete with different bird calls, 
tried to determine what we heard in 
the distance. At over 3,000 feet, neo- 
tropical birds were migrating through 
this soon-to-be designated state for- 
est, like the brightly colored red tan- 
ager we spied in the barely leafing out 

tree canopy overhead. We also found 
the off-white little eggs of a junco 
that'd just flown off — her nest in the 
bank barely covered by some stringy, 
gray material. But on that particvilar 
day, we were on our way to seeing 
something even more unique: the 

About 30 steps beyond the loom- 
ing, 50-foot firetower, through rhodo- 
dendron and other shrubs, were 
some 48 acres of rock formations 
called the Channels. Originally ; 
named "The Great Channels," the ^ 
rocks jut out of Hayter's Knob — part ^ 
of what locals call Brumley Moun- ^ 
tain. Iridescent in the sun, the rocks j| 
are a maze of sandstone some 30 feet 
high, many pitted with shallow holes 
or marked by wavy lines. This sug- 
gests the rocks may have been under 
water millions of years ago. But pre- 
serve manager Claiborne Woodall 
said the 400-million-year-old rocks 
were likely formed by the forces of 
erosion on a sandstone cap. The 
Channels forest is also home to the 
very delicate and rare wildflower 
Carolina saxifrage, which is "very 
common on cliff faces in this part of 
the state," he added. Woodall was ex- 
cited to tell us the 721-acre Channels 
Natural Area Preserve would be- 
come part of the new, 4,836-acre state 
forest to be named after The Chan- 
nels. Accordingly, it will be open to 
hunting" . . . the same as (other) state 
forests," Woodall noted. 

Colorful mountain laurel and wildflowers adorn the forest understory. 

Block bears benefit from forest protection. 

Citizens Drive 
Preservation Effort 

As far back as March 2002, a pro- 
posal had come before the Washing- 
ton County Board of Supervisors to 
sub-divide 5,000 acres atop Brumley 
Mountain into 19 lots for homes. 
Nearby Poor Valley residents and 
some prominent individuals strenu- 
ously protested this move. One of 
those who brought the issue to a 
wider audience's attention was Jack 
Kestner. Kestner, a retired newspa- 
perman who'd brought his teenage 
children from Chesapeake back to 
Hayter's Gap in 1977, where he'd 
grown up, later wrote about the sim- 
ple life in the mountains for the Bristol 
Herald Courier. 

A stint in the small booth in the 
firetower as a fire lookout one sum- 
mer inspired Keshier to write about 
his experiences in a young adult 
book, Firetoioer, which came out in 
1960. The story inspired Charles 
Kennedy, who first learned of the 
property as a student reading the 
book, to purchase 103 acres adjacent 
to the Channels in 2000. He then built 
the Raven's Ridge Campground and 
Bed and Breakfast, where he and wife 
Alona provided home-cooked meals 
and pristine views at 3,700 feet. 

Living so close to author Kestner's 
home, Kennedy met him and they 
hiked the Chaniiels. Before Kennedy 
was even aware his land was being 
considered for takeover and develop- 

JULY 2009 


Big Tumbling Creek, Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area 

merit. Bill Wasserman, on the south- 
ern, Russell County side of the 
mountain, was trying to preserve 
Hayter's Knob. Wasserman, a hiker 
with a 500-acre conservation ease- 
ment on his own property, let 
Kennedy know of his struggles to 
keep the land nearby free of develop- 
ment. For many years the land 
around Hayter's Knob was owned 
by the Tommie Upchurch family, 
who thoroughly logged the area. 
Wasserman learned that the Depart- 
ment of Forestry had put the firetow- 
er up for sale and he put in a success- 
ful bid. But Upchurch "wanted to sell 
the whole area around the firetower 
[including] the Channels," Wasser- 
man pointed out. 

In September 2001, the 4,800-acre 
Upchurch property was sold to Ed- 
wards Wood Products of North Car- 
olina, who wished to ultimately di- 
vide the land into lots for a gated sub- 
division. That idea was presented to 
the Washington County Board of Su- 

pervisors in 2002, after a preliminary 
public hearing by the county's plan- 
ning commission. Kennedy, Kestner, 
and others protested the plans of Ed- 
wards Wood Products, and fortu- 
nately, the option to divide up the 
mountain was voted down. 

Board member Bobby Ingle later 
said, "I didn't want to look 25 miles 
away [from the Abingdon area] and 
see houses on it. . . we don't need to 
develop even/thing." In 2003 the re- 
gional Nature Conservancy office 
looked at the unique area, and pur- 
chased the property in 2004 for about 
$3.6 million. The i)ehind-the-scenes 
efforts of The Mountain Heritage 
Foundation helped make it happen. 
The MH Foundation, a southwest 
Virginia community-environmental 
group, had been working on procur- 
ing easements and money to connect 
Hidden Valley Wildlife Management 
Area, to the west of Brumley Gap and 
the Channels, to the Department's 
Clinch Mountain Wildlife Manage- 

ment Area near Laurel Bed Lake to 
the northeast. 

Foundation lawyer and St. Paul 
conservationist Frank Kilgore ap- 
proached the Nature Conservancy 
about the state taking over the 4,800 
acres and designating a small portion 
a natural area preserve. This would 
bring the foundation closer to creat- 
ing a trail connecting the different 
natural areas. 

With some lobbying, state funds 
to purchase the land from the Nature 
Conservancy were procured through 
local legislators — including state sen- 
ators Phillip Puckett, William 
Wampler Jr., and delegate Joseph 
Johnson. Regional Nature Conser- 
vancy director Brad Kreps appreciat- 
ed the fact that the legislators cham- 
pioned the idea of a state forest. Con- 
necting three wildlife areas, he said, 
would create a "conservation corri- 
dor" that wildlife in the area could 
take advantage of. 

On May 9, 2008, the Channels 
State Forest was officially dedicated 
at the Hayter's Gap Community 
Center. Tom Smith, who directs the 
Virginia Natural Heritage Program, 
said the forest came about because of 
new partnerships. This included 
funds from the general assembly, the 
Virginia Land Conservation Fund, 
and DCR's Natural Heritage Pro- 

Although neither Kestner nor 
Kennedy lived to see the Channels 
become part of a state forest. Senator 
Puckett expressed sincere gratitude 
for their efforts to save the Channels 
area. D 

D. /. Mathews is a freelance writer from St. Paul 
wlw ivrites on outdoor and education topics. She 
is a Virginia Master Naturalist member. 

]V[ore Information 

The Channels State Forest: 4,836 

WItere: 15 miles north of Abingdon, 

Activities Permitted: hiking, bird 
watching, hunting in season 

For Directions: Call the regional VA 
Department of Forestry office at 276- 



I GrowWildl 

of Virginia 

story and illustrations 
by Spike Knuth 

The vireos are among the 
most difficult birds to see 
and identify with the 
naked eye. Most of them reside in the 
upper canopy of large shade trees 
like oak, hickory, maple, elm, 
sycamore, and Cottonwood. They are 
difficult to find in tliick vegetation, let 

alone by field marks. And when 
looking up into trees, the background 
of either a bright or an overcast sky 
renders only a dark silhouette. Most 
often, their best "field marks" are 
their songs, all of which are some- 
what similar. 

The Latin word "vireo" means "I 
am green," and one of the old names 
of these birds was "greenlet." They 
are small, slow-moving, tree- 

dwelling birds. Taxonomists once as- 
sociated them with warblers but ac- 
cording to the Smithsonian field 
guide, "They are part of an Aus- 
tralasian lineage that is also repre- 
sented in North America by the 
shrikes and corvids (crows and 
jays)." They do have a slightly 
hooked beak like a shrike, but feed- 
ing habits are not the same as the 
shrike which preys on large insects, 
small birds, and small mice. Vireos 
move about in the trees more like tan- 
agers, feeding on caterpillars, other 
insects, and wild fruits. 

Nests represent another distinc- 
tion of this clan of birds. They build 
pouch-like nests that hang from the 
forks of trees. They are constructed of 
plant fibers, mosses, lichens, spider 
silk, hair, wasp paper, leaves, and fine 
grasses. Vireos lay 3 to 5 white or 
pinkish-white eggs marked to vary- 
ing degrees with brown. Incubation 
typically takes 12 to 16 days. 

Vireos are generally olive-green to 
olive-gray above, buffy white or yel- 
lowish below, with some bright 
green or yellow, and some have dark 
or bluish-gray heads. Some have 


wing DarsTW eye rings, or eyebrow 
stripes. Vireos are stockier and slower 
moving than warblers. 

Red-eyed Vireo 

(Vireo olivacnis) 

This is the most common of our vire- 
os. It is nearly impossible to walk into 
a summer woodlands without hear- 
ing its incessant call which gives rise 
to one of its nicknames, "preacher 
bird." Its call has been phonetically 
described as "hear me-over here-see 
me-can't you see?" Like most vireos, 
the red-eyed stay high in the upper 
canopy, moving about slowly, search- 
ing diligently for insects, especially 

They are about 6'/2 inches long, 
with a dark olive back, darker wings, 
and tail, with white underparts that 
are lightly washed with yellow or 
green. They lack wing bars but show 
a white line over the eye, a gray cap 
edged with black, and, of course, the 
red eye. 

JULY 2009 

Red-eyed vireos generally nest in 
the fork of a tree or large shrub, 
building a hanging but 
shallow, basket-like 
nest (leading to anoth- 
er of its names, "little 
hang nest"). The 
nests are so sturdy 
that they may last 
for years and pro- 
vide homes for 
mice. In acldition 
to insects, tliey will 
feed on wild berries 
and other plant 
fruits. They leave 
Virginia by October 
and winter from the Gulf coast 
as far south as Brazil. 

wing bars, a gray rump, and a distinct 
yellow eye ring. 

This bird reaches Virginia in late 
April aiid nests in the forks of decidu- 
ous trees, usually high up, building a 
typical pouch-like nest camouflaged 
with cocoons and lichens and bomid 
together with spider silk. Yellow- 
throats forage high in the upper 
canopy of large shade trees, especial- 
ly oaks, in open woods with dense 
understory. They feed on insects, u"i- 
sect larvae, and wild fruits at the end 
of summer. 

Migration south occurs in early 
September; they winter from south- 
ern Florida to Mexico, and from Cen- 
tral America to Columbia. 

Warbling Vireo 

{Virco ^\\vus) 

The plainest looking of the vireos 
measures 5/2 inches and has olive 
gray upper parts, whitish under- 
parts, with sides and flanks washed 
in yellow. They have no wing bars 
and a faint white line over each eye. 

Yellow-throated Vireo 


The yellow-throated vireo has a song 
similar to the red-eyed, but with 
shorter phrases and longer intervals. 
It is 6I/4 inches long, olive-green 
above, with yellow throat and breast, 
greenish sides, white belly, two white 

Their warbling call is uriimstat^ 
able; a clear constant, indesciiba)?Ie 
warble of up to 20 notes, all runlGng 
together, as often as 4,000 times a day! 
I remember it as a boy in Wisconsin as 
the bird I never saw but would hear 
all summer. I could never get a good 
look at it because of its habit of forag- 
ing through the tops of densely 
leafed trees up against the sky. It was 
years later that I finally realized 
whose song it was. 

Warbling vireos nest and live high 
in tall oaks, elms, maples, cotton- 
woods, sycamores, and willows, 
where they feed on insects and cater- 
pillars. The trees may be part of a 
shady tree-lined road, in open wood- 
lands, along lakeshores or rivers, or 
in wet bottomlands. The birds sus- 
pend their nest from a fork far out on 

a/drooping limb and build it out of 
the same basic materials as other 
vireos, forming a hanging cup. 

They have a wide breeding range 
from all across the northern half of 
the United States and southern Cana- 
da, extending to Virginia. Warbling 
vireos leave in September to winter 
in Central America and northern 
South America. 

White-eyed Vireo 

(Vireo griseus) 

The white-eyed is fairly common in 
Virginia in the thickets and vine tan- 
gles of woodland edges, along 
streams, lakes, and swamps, and in 
upland thickets of vines and briars. I 
saw my first white-eyed vireo in a 
dense hedgerow in the Amelia 
Wildlife Management Area. 

It is grayish-olive above, white 
below, with pale yellow sides and 

flanks. It has white eyes with yellow 
spectacles, a white chin, dark wings 
with a pair of white wing bars, and 
measures about SYi inches. The song 
is described phonetically in many 
ways but my favorite is "pick-up-the- 
beer-check." Sometimes it utters par- 
tial imitations of other birds. Its call is 
a scolding "tick," and it can get quite 
upset if you get too close to its nest. 
Oddly, it is also very inquisitive and 
will try to sneak up on a person much 
like a catbird. 

The white eye's nest is a more 
bulky and loosely constructed, cone- 
shaped, hanging affair, usually built 
in dense, low-growing shrubs. It too 
is made up of plant fibers, moss, 
sticks, lichens, cocoons, wasp paper, 
and leaves. 

White eyes feed on flies, beetles, 
Tnoth and butterfly larvae, and wild 
fruits. They winter along the South 
Atlantic and Gulf coast into Mexico 
and Central America. 

Blue-headed Vireo 

(Vireo solitarius) 

Formerly known as the solitary vireo, 
the blue-headed vireo nests in the Al- 
leghenies and Appalachians amid 
the cool, dark reaches of mixed 
coniferous-deciduous woodlands of 
pine, hemlock, oaks, hickory, and 
beech. As its name implies, it has a 
bluish-gray head with a distinctive 
white eye ring and white throat, a 
greenish back, white underparts 
with yellowish sides, and dark wings 
with two white wing bars. Its song is 
typical of vireos and similar to the 
red-eyed, although higher pitched 
and clearer, with shorter phrases and 

It builds a pendant nest near the 
ground in forks of horizontal branch- 
es near the center of a small tree con- 
structed of typical vireo building ma- 
terials. The female blue-headed is 
said to be fearless, and there are 
records of the bird allowing itself to 
be stroked while sitting on its nest. 
Blue-headed vireo feed at mid-story 
or high in the canopy on caterpillars 
and otlier insects. 

Winter is spent along the South 
Atlantic and Gulf coasts, south to 
Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. 



Philadelphia Vireo 

( Vireo ph iladelph us) 

This vireo does not breed in Virginia 
but is a common migrant to and from 
its breeding and wintering grounds. 
It was first recognized and described 
near Philadelphia; thus, the name. It 
is 5 inches long, grayish-olive above, 
with yellowish or whitish underparts 
and a grayish crown. There is a faint 
white stripe over the eye and faint 
wing bar. Its song is similar to the red- 
eyed but higher pitched, slower, and 
more erratic. 

This vireo moves north quickly in 
spring, usually with the last flights of 
warblers. It breeds in the northern 
United States and Canada, from 
Maine and New Brunswick to Alber- 
ta. It prefers woodland edges, clear- 
ings, and burned over areas, as well 
as aspen, willow, and alder thickets 
near streams and lakes. 

It builds its nest in the fork of a wil- 
low or alder using willow down, 
birch bark strips, lichens, and grasses. 

This vireo is a more active feeder 
than the others, sometimes hanging 
upside down to get at caterpillars 
and often launching quickly to cap- 
ture flying insects. 

Philadelphia vireos migrate 
south in September, back through 
Virginia to Mexico and Central 
America. □ 

Spike Knuth is an avid naturalist 
and wildlife artist. For over 30 years his 
artwork and ivritiiig have appeared in Virgiiiia 
Wildlife. He is a member of the Virginia Out- 
door Writers Associatio)i. 


JULY 2009 

Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild! is a 
regular feature that highlights Vir- 
ginia's Wildlife Action Plan, which is 
designed to unite natural resources 
agencies, sportsmen and women, con- 
servationists, and dtizens in a com- 
mon vision for the conservation of the 
Commonwealth's wildlife and habitats 
in which they live. To learn more or to 
become involved with this program 



2009 Outdoor 
Calendar of Events 

Unless otherwise noted, for current infor- 
mation and registration on workshops go 
to the "Upcoming Events" page on our 
Web site at or call 

July 28: Flat Out Catfish Workshop, 
James River, Riclimond. 

July 30, August 1 and 6: PhotograpJi- 
iug Butterflies and Otlier Cool Bugs in 
the Garden; with Lynda Richardson; 
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 

August 7-9: Virginia Outdoor Spiorts- 
inan Shoxv, Richmond; www.sports- 

August 14-16: Mother-Daughter Out- 
doors Weekend, Holiday Lake 4-H 
Center, Appomattox. 

August 25: Flat Out Catfish Workshop 
11, James River, Richmond. 

August 29: Ladies' Day Shooting 
(Handgun or Shotgun) Clinics, Cava- 
lier Rifle & Pistol Club; For reserva- 
Hons call (804) 370-7565 or e-mail 

September 10, 12 and 17: Photograph- 
ing Colors, Textures, and Patterns in the 
Garden; with Lynda Richardson; 
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 

September 12: Jakes Event; Page Val- 
ley Sportsman's Club; contact Art 
Kasson at (540) 622-6103 or artkas- 
son@y ahoo . com . 

September 12-13: Western Regional 
Big Game Contest, 

September 26: Eastern Shore Birdhig 
and Wildlife Festival, Cape Charles. 

September 26-27: Eastern Regional 
Big Game Contest and State Champi- 
onship, U 


Congratulations to all the winners of the youth writing contest, sponsored by the VOWA 
and recognized at the spring business meeting. Left to right: Lucy Adams, Mark Robin- 
son, Taylor N. Fariss, Scott T. Rollins, and Holly Kays. 

Cultivating the Next 

Generation of 

Outdoor Writers 

Congratulations to this year's win- 
ners of the undergraduate and high 
school writing competitions, award- 
ed by the Virginia Outdoor Writers 
Association (VOWA). 


First Place 

Lucy Adams, Sophomore 
Virginia Tech 

"Summer of the Rattlesnake" 
{printed here) 

Second Place 

Holly Kays, Sophomore 

Virginia Tech 

"With a Notebook in Hand" 


First Place 

Mark Robinson, Senior 

Patrick Henry High School, Roanoke 


Second Place 

Scott T. Rollins, Senior 

King George Higli School, King George 

"Monarch of the Pines" 

Third Place 

Taylor N. Fariss, Senior 
Lancaster High School, Weems 
"The Miracle of Winter" D 

Summer of the Rattlesnake 

by Lucy Adams 

It had been a battle keeping the kids' 
flashlights off, but we thought it 
worth the effort. We had wanted 
them to have the full experience of 
the woods at night, to be able to see 
without being seen by all the life 
around them. We had been tliinking 
in terms of the smaller sorts of 
wildlife — and by the end of the walk, 
we'd already caught a brightly col- 
ored red salamander and several of 
the familiar northern duskies. 

Now, for the walk back, we were 
doing our best to fully enforce the no- 
flashlight rule; perhaps if we were 
successful we would get the chance 
to hear a barred owl or another noc- 
turnal bird. That is, if we could en- 
force silence as well. We were fight- 
ing a losing battle on the silence front 
unhl it fell all of its own accord at the 
sound of crackling beside the path. 

We quickly pointed our flash- 
lights in the direction of the sound — 


and illuminated the long sinuous 
body of a fully grown timber rat- 
tlesnake. The light from our flash- 
lights reflected off his scales, and we 
could clearly see a lump in the mid- 
dle of his stomach where he had 
parked his dinner. There was a corre- 
spondingly large lump in my throat 
as we walked on, after staring for sev- 
eral moments in awe. 

It seemed as though moments 
like that — moments where the inner 
workings of nature were suddenly 
and unexpectedly revealed — were 
common at nature camp. The year I 
saw the timber rattler was the year I 
went back to camp to teach, because 
I'd gotten too old to go back there to 
learn. I couldn't bear to be parted 
from a place I loved so much, and I 
figured I would somehow manage to 
develop whatever it was my coun- 
selors had that kept me coming back 
as a camper for so many years. Never 
mind the fact that I have a recurring 
tendency to avoid all person-to-per- 
son interactions (too fraught with the 
danger of an awkward silence or a so- 
cial faux pas). I'd deal with that when 
the time came. 

Anyway, what I remember most 
about my counselors was not their 
social abilities; it was the look on their 
faces when they were given the 
honor of catching a glimpse of the 
hidden, natural world. 1 still remem- 
ber the glowing look on our ornithol- 
ogy teacher's face when she found a 
hummingbird nest lodged in the fork 
of a tree at the end of camp. The 
branch was mottled with lichen, and 
the nest itself was not much more 
than a lichen-colored bump with a 
hole in it large enough to fit my 
thumb. Maybe. The whole thing was 
only visible through a tiny gap 
amidst a profusion of green leaves. I 
remember filling with excitement as 
Natalie carefully directed my binocu- 
lars in the right direction and the little 
nest came into focus. 

When I went back to camp to 
teach, I taught freshwater ecology. I 
taught kids that when you turn over 
rocks in the stream, you are uncover- 
ing a whole world full of alien crea- 
tures — the larvae of stoneflies, 
mayflies and caddisflies — that, if 
magnified to human proportions. 

would become fearsome dragons 
and deadly wild beasts. 

As it is, a mayfly larva will fit in 
the palm of your haiid, and if you fill 
the palm of your hand witli water, its 
delicate gills will vibrate quickly back 
and forth to extract all the oxygen 
from that water supply. I realized it 
doesn't require any fine-tuned social 
graces to place a captured mayfly 
into the hands of an eager child and 
to watch his face light up with the 
same excitement 1 felt when I finally 
focused on the hummingbird nest. 

I'd gone back to camp because I 
couldn't bear to stay away from it, 
but in doing so, I found something as 
rewarding as discovering a hidden 
nest smaller than my thumb, or hear- 
ing the crackling of last fall's leaves 
beneath the body of a rattlesnake. I 
discovered the pleasure of listening 
to the joyful shouts of children who 
are holding a mayfly for the first time 
or hearing gasps of wonder from 
someone who has never seen a snake 
in the wild before. I figure that if I can 
instill that sense of wonder in even a 
few people, my life will have been 
worth it. ~ 

VOWA Excellence in 
Craft Award Winners 

Bob Gooch Column: 
First: King Montgomery with "To- 
morrow's Angler" in An Angler's 
Jounial, PressBox Sforts Magazine. 
Second: Bill Cochran for "Planting 
trees is something you do for your 
grandchildren," the Roanoke Times. 
Third: King Montgomery with "A 
Tooth for a Tooth" in An Angler's 
Jounial, PressBox Sports Magazine. 

Feature Article: 

First: John Shtogren, "Jarrett Rifles 
and Cowden Plantation," in The Vir- 
ginia Sportsman. 

Second: John Shtogren, "Primland 
Toms" in The Virginia Sportsman. 
Third: Bruce Lemmert, "Primum 
Non Nocere. First, Do No Harm" in 
Virginia Wildlife, December 2008. 


First: King Montgomery "Blcindfield 
Plantation" in TJie Virginia Sportsman. 

Second: Marie Majarov for Kingfish- 
er, cover of Virginia Wildlife, March 
2008 photography issue. 
Third: King Montgomery "Retvirn to 
the River of Swans: Chilean Patago- 
nia," The Virginia Sportsman. □ 

by Beth Hester 

A Natural History of Quiet Waters 

by Curtis J. Baciger 

2007 University of Virginia Press 

Phone: 434-982-2932 


"Agrowing number of us are discovering 
that sioamps are an aesthetically pleasing 
landscape. No other natural system is 
quite so diverse, with such a wide variety 
of plants, birds, animals and insects. " 

- Curtis J. Badger 

After coming into a bit of money, 
Curtis Badger set out to do a little in- 
vesting. He dicin't select a diversified 
portfolio of mutual funds, or a dull 
slab of commercial property; what 
Curtis really wanted was a swamp. 

The upshot of this quest to pos- 
sess "real estate of ill repute" was a 
three-acre parcel of land on Pun- 
goteague Creek, and a neatly made 
volume of lyrical explorations into 
the nature of swamps and other wet- 
lantis — those precious, marshy re- 
gions of cypress, spartina grass, and 
black giim. Curtis sets the stage by 
walking us through a brief political 
history of our complex relationsliip 
with wetlands, including the govern- 
ment's quirky policies of mitigation 
and 'no net loss.' From there, he takes 
us on aii ecological tour of selected 
quiet waters along the mid-Atlantic. 

Reading the book is a bit like tak- 
ing a meandering, yet instructive, 
guided canoe trip, gliding along as 
Curtis pauses to point out the flora 
and fauna that make wetland ecosys- 
tems work: water lilies, bluegill, pro- 
thonotary warblers, snails, dam- 
selflies, and Virginia pine. 

JULY 2009 


Of particular interest is the chap- 
ter devoted to songbird migration 
and the crucial role played by the 
maritime forests, salt marshes, and 
barrier islands of the mid-Atlantic 
coastal corridor. Each year, these spe- 
cialized regions provide seemingly 
endless ribbons of traveling song- 
birds with much needed pit stops. 

Whether salty or brackish, wet- 
lands provide us with a natural 
means of erosion control, clean water, 
and nurseries for fish. For centuries, 
swamps have gotten a bad rap, but 
Curtis maintains that in getting to 
know one, we will begin to appreci- 
ate the biological diversity that make 
wetlands special places indeed. D 

Pinnacle Natural Area 

Preserve Litter 
Conservation Project 

The Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve 
is located in Russell County. The area 
consists of 663 protected acres where 
Cedar Creek winds around, and 
eventually empties, into the Clinch 
River. The preserve has several 
marked trails for hiking, one of 
which ends at a beautiful natural wa- 
terfall called Big Falls. The Pinnacle 
Natural Preserve gets its name from a 
towering rock made of limestone and 
dolomite bedstone. A swinging 
bridge takes you over Cedar Creek 
and leads to multiple trails. 

The Webelos I Den of Cub Scout 
Pack 119 performed a community 
service project within this natural 
area preserve. On March 17th, seven 
Scouts and their adult partners 
picked up trash along the edge of 
Cedar Creek, which is a stocked trout 
stream. Along the approximately 1.5- 
mile stretch of this stream, as well as 
the trail leading to the Big Falls, these 
Scouts gathered 38 bags of trash and 
litter in one evening: everything from 
cans and glass bottles to tires; they 
even recovered an old kayak! 

The Webelos I Scouts who partic- 
ipated were: Austin Brown, Gabe 
Hess, Ben Holmes, Levi Horton, Jor- 
dan Stout, Branson Sutherland, and 
Tyler Vencill, as well as den leaders 
Daniel and Teena Hess and Rodney 
and Shelley Stout. The Scouts ap- 
plied the principles of "Leave No 
Trace" and realized the importance of 
leaving a place cleaner than they 
found it. They also realized how litter 
and carelessly tossing trash can hurt 
the environment, pollute streams, 
and harm wildlife. 

After picking up litter, they also 
put out "Leave No Trace" birdseed 
bagels. These were made by spread- 
ing a thin layer of peanut butter on 
top of a bagel and then dipping the 
bagel in birdseed. No hanger or 
string was attached to the bagels that 
could harm the birds or other wildlife 
we are trying to preserve. The Scouts 
placed the bagels on tree branches, 
using the hole in the bagel to hang, 
for area birds to reach with ease. This 
project helped them realize the im- 
portance of bird and wildlife preser- 
vation in their community. 

By participating in this and simi- 
lar service projects, each Scout will 
earn the Cub Scout World Conserva- 
tion Award. Being community and 
service-oriented and ecologically- 
minded can begin even at a young 
age. These Scouts are well on their 
way to helping the Earth become a 
cleaner place. 

This ixyort was contributed by Cub Scout Pack 
119 of Lebanon, Virginia. 

1 ^ ■' 


i ^RTSi 

' w-^-l 

Congratulations to Sarah Lesser (L), 
sliown here with Executive Director Bob 
Duncan. Sarah was the Overall Individual 
Female State Champion of the 2009 NASP 
Tournament. We apologize for the error in 
our May 2009 issue. 



1— -^.^^^^ >*9*K 






' O^^^^E7^^^S 


"Need any help putting the 
outboard motor on, Hank?" 

******************** QO|_| o PJIOIX QQQ 

#VIR0002235105/8#60 SEPT 09^ 

P.O. BOX 11104 

RICMOND VA 23230-1104 

Reading Your Label 

Is it time to renew? If you are uncertain when your subscription 
expires, look for the expiration date in the circled location on 
the sample above. 





by Ken and Maria Perrotte 

Hooking Into Some Blues 

O luefish often get a bad rap. While they generate excite- 
D ment when battling at the terminal end of your fishing 
tackle, they rarely elicit the same reaction with the salivary 
glands of most anglers we know. These fun-to-catch, hard 
fighting water marauders are frequently viewed as oily, line- 
slashing pests best suited for rendition into cut bait. 

Those who do eat bluefish, often begrudgingly, typical- 
ly recommend smoking them or using some other means 
to mitigate the fish's perceived limitations. Yet, among our 
northeastern coastal states, bluefish are creatively served in 
some of the finest restaurants. 

With a little research and some culinary trial and error, 
we no longer get the blues when bluefish swarm the baits. 
We're hooked on bluefish cakes. 

So, the next time you're debating what to do with the 
bluefish you've just brought aboard, save some fillets and 
try this recipe. Captain Ryan Rogers, skipper of the Mid- 
night Sun charter fishing boat out of Reedville first suggest- 
ed this dish to us. He wasn't quite sure how to prepare it; 
just certain he had heard it wasn't bad. 

Bluefish Cakes 

tablespoons chopped onions 

tablespoons chopped green onions 

tablespoon olive oil 

cup cracker crumbs 

cup crab flavored potato chips 

tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 

teaspoon baking soda 

teaspoons Old Bay reduced sodium seasonings 

pound cooked bluefish fillets (a little over 1 cup 



teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
teaspoon brown mustard 
tablespoons mayonnaise 
teaspoon lemon juice 
tablespoons margarine or butter 

Fillet the fish early, removing all the dark stuff in the middle 
of the fillet related to the lateral line. Fillets take on an al- 
most grayish hue, but they vAW whiten up. 

Boil or bake fillets until opaque; then crumble the 
meat. This is the first step and is similar in preparation to 
crab cakes. 

JULY 2009 







Heat oil in frying/saute pan. Cook onions and green 
onions in oil until soft. Mk with dry ingredients in a bowl 
(cracker and chip crumbs, parsley, baking soda, season- 
ings) and add fish, blending gently. Mix next 5 ingredients 
in a large bowl. Fold fish mixture into wet ingredients and, 
using your hands, form into cakes. Bring butter to a sizzle in 
the same pan, add cakes, and reduce heat to medium. 
Brown on both sides, ensuring the middle of the cake gets 
hot. The fish cakes can also be frozen and cooked later. We 
don't recommend adding any salt. Spicy food lovers can add 
cayenne or red pepper. Serve with a green salad and your fa- 
vorite honey mustard dressing or over pasta with citrus 
cream sauce. 

Serves two as enttee or four as appetizer. If you serve it 
over salad, have a crusty bread on the side; if served over 
pasta, have a side salad. A sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio 
wine v^ll go well with, this, but for something a little differ- 
ent, try a well-chilled Portugese vinho verde. 

Citnis Cream Sauce 

This versatile sauce enhances many types offish, from deli- 
cate sea bass to more seasoned fish cakes. A teaspoon of 
sugar can be added if a sweeter sauce is desired. By changing 
the ratios of cittus juices and zest, you can make a tangy 
lime sauce or a sweeter orange sauce. The sauce can be 
made a day ahead and reheated. 





tablespoon olive oil 

tablespoon chopped onions or shallots 

ounces clam juice, fish stock, or vegetable broth 

cup whipping cream 

cup dry white wine 

teaspoon orange marmalade 

teaspoon lime juice 

tablespoon lemon juice 

teaspoon herbs de province 

teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 

teaspoon lemon zest 

Saute onions in oil over medium-low heat until soft, about 
1 minute. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil over 
medium-high heat. Reduce heat; use a vdre whisk to thor- 
oughly blend, and cook until reduced to desired consisten- 
cy, about 12 minutes, u 


. -^Vk 

by Tom Guess 

There's a Storm Abrewin' 

/tossed and turned with excite- 
ment as the night-time hours 
ticked away, finally seeing the light in 
the hallway shining on the hard- 
wood floor beneath the bedroom 
door. It wasn't long until I heard my 
grandfather's footsteps heading to- 
ward the kitchen. I could hear the cof- 
fee percolating, followed by the smell 
and sound of bacon sizzling in his fa- 
vorite cast iron skillet — music to a 
boy's ears. Soon he would open the 
door and say, "Hey boy . . . you gonna 
sleep all day?" 

Even as I wearily rolled out of 
bed, I was brimming with excitement 
to go! I always looked forward to his 
strong coffee, half burned bacon, and 
crispy fried eggs. 

It was July 1978, and we were 
going fishing on my grandfather's 
best friend's boat in the Chesapeake 
Bay out of Hampton. 

I recall getting underway and 
heading out from Buckroe Beach. 
The water was calm, but there was a 
decent groundswell coming from the 

Stanley "Opa" Guess was my mentor to 
becoming a sportsman. 

east. Soon I found that the breakfast I 
was so fond of became less pleasant 
with each passing swell. 

1 did what any greenhorn would 
do: I pointed my face to the wind, 
breathed deeply, tried to suck it up ... 
and got sick! I recall my grandfather 
being concerned for my well-being 
but laughing at the same time. Al- 
though I didn't find my saltwater rite 
of passage to be quite as hilarious as 
others in the boat, it was the first of 
many learning experiences that day. 

Seasickness affects even the most 
experienced boater and can cause a 
fun-filled day to turn miserable. I'm 
not too proud to admit that even 
though I spent a career in the Coast 
Guard, I occasionally took seasick 
medication when it was rough. 
There are many over-the-counter and 
homeopathic remedies available that 
will provide relief, but you should 
first discuss your options with a 
pharmacist or doctor. 

After catching some flounder 
and then driving the boat for a bit, I 
started to feel a little better. That's 
when I noticed a more pronounced 
chill in the air and dark, angry clouds 
building in the sky. My grandfather, 
being from the Shenandoah Valley, 
often had a unique way of putting 
things. He said, "There is a storm a- 
brewin' and we're-a-gonna get wet 
directly." We started heading for 
cover under the Bay Bridge-Tunnel 
when the heavens let loose and the 
bottom fell out. I had never experi- 
enced the wrath of the sea or wit- 
nessed lightning and thunder like 
that in my young life. I gained a new 
respect for nature that day. The storm 
didn't last long, but it definitely took 
my mind off my seasickness. 

When skies threaten, return to dry land 
or seek safe harbor. 

During impending weather 
threats, the best course of action is to 
return to dry land and get off your 
boat. If that is not possible, have 
everyone onboard don a lifejacket, 
secure all gear, and seek safe harbor. 
If you hear the Coast Guard broad- 
casting urgent marine messages on 
VHF-FM channel 16 and 22a, listen 
closely and take immediate action. 

We fared well that day, but thun- 
derstorms can be deadly on the water 
if you don't take appropriate action. 
It was, without a doubt, one of my 
most memorable trips "on the 
water." It also was my initiation to a 
lifelong love of boating, hunting, and 
fishing. "Thanks, Opa!" D 

Tom Guess, U. S. Coast Guard (Ret), serves as a 
stateumie coordinator for the Boating Safety Ed- 
ucation Program at DGIF. 



by Lynda Richardson 

Don^t Be Afraid to Flash Outctoors 

A ny photographer who has ever 
/l photographed in the great out- 
doors has run into the problem of 
having to shoot in bad light. Bright 
noon-day sun beats down on your 
subjects, creating harsh shadows 
which can ruin a nice shot. 

One solution to this challenge is 
to use flash for some outdoor shots. It 
might seem weird to think about 
using a flash outdoors, but many 
photographers use this technique 
with incredible results. You can use 
the camera's pop-up flash on close 
subjects, but it is the removable on- 
camera flashes that give you the most 
versatility and power. 

I have taught hundreds of pho- 
tography workshops and one thing 
I've discovered: Most people are 
afraid of their flashes. Yes, the in- 
struction booklets are intimidating 
and hard to understand, but I think 
the biggest problem is that people 
don't practice enough. Don't wait 
until your son or daughter's wed- 
ding day to learn to use your flash! 
Do it now before an important event 
or situation arises. This is the digital 
age, the age of instant gratification. If 
you take a picture with your flash 
and it doesn't look right, make an ad- 
justment and re-shoot! 

A flash offers two different shoot- 
ing options: M (manual) and E TTL 
(evaluative through-the-lens). A 
manual flash setting allows you to 
choose whichever aperture and shut- 
ter speed you want for the camera, as 
well as the amount of time the flash 
fires. Adjustments to your flash out- 
put can then be modified with the 
exposure compensation feature — ei- 
ther with the flash itself or the cam- 
era. Just be sure not to confuse this for 
the camera's exposure compensation 
feature. (When in doubt, check your 
flash and camera manuals.) 

E TTL can be thought of as the 
'automatic' setting for your flash. 
When you set your flash to E TTL, the 
camera and flash automatically work 

JULY 2009 

Using a flash on this baMit spider really made 
it pop out of the strongly lit bacl<ground. Canon 
5D digital camera. Canon 180mm macro lens, 
ISO 100, l/20th on tripod, fl6.0, flash fired. 
®Lynda Richardson 

together to adjust flash output based 
on exposure information gathered 
through the camera lens. You can still 
adjust your flash output in tlie ways 
mentioned previously. 

If you want to learn to use your 
flash outdoors, I would recommend 
selecting either the Manual or the E 
TTL feature (which seems to be most 
popular) and practice learning to use 
that feature first. Use your selected 
flash feature with different camera 

settings and lenses. See how it han- 
dles getting close or moving far away 
from your subject. What does the 
tlash exposure compensation feature 
on the flash or the camera do for your 

Don't have an agenda for images 
you have to capttire? Just go out and 
have fun experimenting. 

Don't let your fear of 'flashirig' 
take away the opportunity to create 
better images and become an even 
more skilled photographer. Your 
flash is an incredible tool, so don't be 
afraid to give it a workout. Good 
luck! D 

You are invited to submit one to five of your 
best photographs to "Image of the Month," Vir- 
ginia Wildlife Magazine, P.O. Box 11104, 4010 
West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230-1104. 
Send original shdes, super high-quality prints, 
or high-res jpeg, tiff, or raw files on a disk and 
include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or 
other shipping method for return. Also, please 
include any pertinent information regarding 
how and where you captured the image and 
what camera and settings you used, along with 
your phone number. We look forward to seeing 
and sharing your work with our readers. 


Congratulations to Dan and Harriet Modar for this beautiful and seasonally appropriate scenic, 
titled "Day is Done, " taken from their front porch in Goodview. (No kidding'.) Fuji Finepix S5000 
digital camera, ISO 200, l/270th,f.2.8. 


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